Donegal on Sunday
A man convicted of sexual assaulting at 13 year old girl in south Donegal would end up “in jail or on the roadside dead, and his life will be short and miserable” if he did not turn his life around, Naas Circuit Court heard.
Mr Desmond Murphy SC was speaking at the hearing to consider a probation report on Leo Forde (26), convicted last month of having sex with the girl three times in late 2003.
The court heard that Forde now lived in Limerick with a 37 year old girlfriend, who is three months pregnant with his child.
“He accepts he has a serious problem with alcohol,” Mr Murphy said. “However at the age of 26 he is getting too old to be running around as a boy racer or as a hood,” he added, referring to the probation report.
“There is no point in pretending that I can get around the bleak statement in it that he poses a high risk of offending again.”
However, he said that the risk was of public order and motoring offences, and not of the crime he was convicted of, which was “a singular event.”
He asked the judge to “take a neutral view” of previous offences.
Forde has 32 previous convictions dating back to 2004, ranging from public order and drunkenness to discharging a firearm.
“This offence is a singular offence that stands on its own and should be viewed on its own,” Mr Murphy said.
He said that unlike other defendants in the case, Forde had not denied the allegations or called the girl a fantasist who was making things up. He confined his defence to mistake of age, and as a result “the trial was very focussed, and did not involve her in undue distress or additional misery.”
Forde has been abroad, and only returned to Donegal a month before he met the girl, and “did not have the benefit of the local knowledge that some of the other accused had.”
“When under the influence of alcohol he is totally unreasonable and totally unpredictable,” Garda Liam Feeney told the court. He said he had known Forde since he was eighteen.
In a victim impact statement read to the court record, the girl said that she “felt robbed of her childhood.”
“I live in hope that I will look back on this day and feel that my pain has been worthwhile,” she wrote.
She said that at the age of 13 she “just didn’t know how to say no”.
The girl also wrote of her distress at seeing a newspaper headline which had described her as a “13 year old prostitute”, and said her father had been taunted and called a pimp.
“I was an innocent child who was sexually abused,” she wrote.
She said that she had taken drugs and “would take anything that would block out the reality of my life.”
“I hated my life, I wanted to die,” she wrote.
Mr Murphy said that because his client had been placed on the sex offenders register “it excludes him from a whole range of jobs”, including positions in caretaking and building maintenance. Forde was illiterate, and the only employable skill he had was his physical strength.
Adjourning the case, Judge Gerard Griffin said he would consider sentence over the weekend and deliver it on Monday when he sat at the Court of Criminal Justice in Dublin.
Update: Forde was sentenced to three years imprisonment on Monday 19 July, 2010.